WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden unveiled his $2 trillion infrastructure plan Wednesday, a sweeping proposal that would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads, expand access to clean water and broadband and invest in care for the elderly.
Speaking at a carpenters training facility in Pittsburgh, Biden urged Congress to act on his “American Jobs Plan,” arguing that failing to make these investments would contribute to a weakening middle class and leave America at a competitive disadvantage abroad.
“I am proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth,” Biden said. “It’s a once in a generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highways system and the space race decades ago.”
The plan will create millions of jobs, Biden said, and jumpstart the fight against climate change. The proposal would be spent out over an 8-year period and would be paid for over a 15-year span by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent.
“We have to move now because I’m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say ‘This was the moment that America won the future,” Biden said.
Included in the proposal is $155 billion to repair roads and bridges, $80 billion to fix Amtrak’s repair backlog, $40 billion to improve public housing and $111 billion to replace the country’s lead pipes so that drinking water is not contaminated. There is $42 billion for ports and airports, $40 billion to improve public housing, $100 billion to improve public school buildings and $180 billion to be invested in research and development.
Biden said Wednesday that the plan will fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in need of reconstruction and repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges as well as 20,000 miles of road. The plan also establishes a network of electric vehicle charging systems.
Biden said that he would take steps to ensure that minority communities that have historically been left out of similar investments would benefit, and that he would direct the investments to smaller towns and cities across the country and not just costal areas.
The American Jobs Plan is expected to be followed by a second package in mid-April, which will be focused on expanding the social safety net. White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the second package as any less of a priority for the administration.
“There are multiple pillars, and one is not more important than the other,” she said.
The sweeping legislative package would be legacy-making for the nascent Biden administration, but faces a steep climb on Capitol Hill, where the window for major legislation has appeared to be closing. Biden has already signed a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill.
While spending on infrastructure traditionally earns bipartisan support, Biden has encountered Republican pushback on the scope of the plan and its reliance on corporate tax increases for funding.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on a call with Democratic lawmakers Monday that she would like to pass the bill by July 4th, but added that the timeline could easily slip to later in the month, according to a source familiar with the matter.
It is unclear whether Democrats will consider once again resorting to the budget reconciliation process, which would allow them to circumvent a Republican filibuster and would require only 50 votes to succeed. But Senate rules limit what can be included in a reconciliation bill, so some of the more ambitious ideas might have to be discarded.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday morning that he was unlikely to support anything “if it’s going to have massive tax increases and trillions more added to the national debt.”
McConnell, who said Biden called him Monday to discuss his plan, called the infrastructure bill a “Trojan horse” packed with progressive wish-list items.
Biden said that while he was open to other ideas to pay for the bill, so long as it did not raise federal taxes on people making under $400,000. He said that he planned to invite Republicans to the Oval Office in the coming weeks to discuss his proposal.
“Failing to make these investments adds to our debt and effectively puts our children at a disadvantage relative to our competitors,” Biden said. “That’s what crumbling infrastructure does.”
The White House is preparing for months of back and forth with Congress over the bill, and it sees the plan that Biden will lay out Wednesday as a starting point for negotiations. A White House official said the administration expects Congress to make “significant progress” by Memorial Day but not necessarily to pass a bill by then.
The White House has suggested it is open to Congress’ breaking some of the elements off into separate legislation if that could help get the measures passed more quickly. One piece of legislation already before the Senate with bipartisan support is a bill to increase U.S. competitiveness with China.
The administration is also likely to have to contend with more division within the Democratic Party.
Some moderate House Democrats said Tuesday that they won’t support the bill unless it repeals a cap on the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted on federal tax returns, which primarily affects residents of high-cost, high-tax areas, like New York and New Jersey. Republicans capped the tax, known as SALT — which essentially amounted to a tax increase — when they passed a tax cut package in 2017.
“We say ‘No SALT, no deal,'” Reps. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
The White House and other Democrats say the legislation is a way to advance proposals to mitigate climate change and racial inequality, but in the Senate the measures could cost the support of not only Republicans but also moderate Democrats, a Senate aide said.
And while the Senate is likely to have the votes to pass a bill focused on traditional infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges, that alone might be spurned by House Democrats who feel it doesn’t go far enough.
“We must stop spending billions of taxpayer money on infrastructure systems only for them to fail at the most crucial moment,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, Biden projected optimism Wednesday. “It’s big, yes. It’s bold, yes. And we can get it done,” he said.